Headlines – US Women Show They Can Win Bronze & US Men Beat New Zealand (19-5) -with only 3 and a half minutes to play
On the final day of play the Eagle Women defeated Ireland in the cup quarterfinal (14-5). The Eagles trailed 5-0 for most of the match. Nathalie Marchino injected some offensive spark when she came on in the second half to score a try and set up a movement that saw a hard running Vix Folayan score under the post. In the semi-finals New Zealand was in command the whole match scoring a try within 15 seconds of the kick off. New Zealand player Portia Woodman was too much for the Eagles (and for any other side) to handle. She scored 12 tries in Moscow averaging 2 tries per match. The final score was New Zealand 19 – USA 10. This set-up the bronze medal match with Spain. The Eagles had already beaten Spain (19-7) in pool play. Spain beat Australia (14-10) in quarterfinal play and lost to Canada 10-0 in their semi-final match. In the bronze medal match the US narrowly escaped defeat when Spain missed the winning conversion attempt from in front of the post. A soggy pitch and wet ball possibly contributed to sending the match into overtime where Vanesha McGee scored the winning try. When asked how she was so often able to come up with the magic to score the game winning try, Vanesha credited the teamwork which allowed her to do her job as the finisher on the wing. Eagle hooker Kelly Griffin credited teamwork as what enabled her to maintain her incredible work rate through-out the tournament and Eagle prop Jillion Potter, who played with tremendous heart throughout the tournament, concurred that teamwork was what kept her going.
The Women Eagles were certainly lucky in how the draw worked out. Their relatively easy pool put them in a spot where they did not have to face a combination of New Zealand, Canada, or England in knock-out stages. England went out to New Zealand in the quarterfinal (24-7). The sevens World Cup showed with a good draw the Eagles can take the bronze in Rio, but the bad news is some teams are showing they are improving quickly (Russia, Spain) or emerging quickly (Ireland, Fiji) and will be more and more competitive in the coming years. The Netherlands, Australia, & South Africa are also capable of an exceptional match that could knock-out the Eagles. There is a lot that needs to be done to make the Eagles a confidently dominant side, like the All Blacks, that would ensure a medal in Rio.
The US Men fizzled in a plate quarterfinal against Argentina (28-5). Zach Test’s effort was once again excellent and he scored the Eagles only try. The Eagles’ play continued to be largely drive into contact and dig the ball out, but Argentina controlled most of the possession. Beyond 10 and a half minutes of almost glory against the All Blacks and the first 4 minutes against Georgia the men didn’t show they could be medal contenders. Questions still remain if they will qualify. Once again they lost to Canada (15-14 in pool play) and if Olympic qualification rules allow one team from NACRA (North America Caribbean Rugby Assoc.), it is unlikely it would be the USA.
IRB wisdom in choosing Moscow as the site for the tournament was often questioned. The IRB claimed they were looking to move rugby sevens into emerging rugby territory. The largest crowd probably approached 10,000 on the final day. One reporter who had attended all of the previous 5 Sevens World Cups said attendance was “abysmal” . Fans who had traveled from all parts of the world complained of the costs of visas and the prohibition against beer and alcohol in the stadium. At least half the Russians I met were gruff, serious, and seemed to be xenophobic. I had heard an NPR program about this shortly before I went to Moscow. That said, many Russians were warm and friendly and sincerely wanted us to enjoy our visit.
On June 13th the IRB announced there would be another Sevens World Cup in 2018. Countries are beginning to prepare their bids. Perhaps the possibility of a full stadium is not an important criterion to use to judge bids, but consideration of the possibility of a visiting spectator having a positive experience should be.